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Rehabilitation Institute receives $10M for research hospital

Mark and Margaret Stephan

Mark and Margaret Stephan | Provided photo

A Chicago-area couple inspired by the grit of injured cyclist Mark Stephan have donated $10 million to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago where he recovered.

Timothy and Sharon Ubben are longtime Chicago-area civic leaders who have given millions of dollars to causes all over the country. They’re also friends of Stephan and his wife, Margaret. Tim and Mark had known each other for years through their work in the financial world and at the Skokie Country Club, where they played some golf together.

A 2007 bike accident that left Stephan a quadriplegic hit home for the Ubbens.

They stayed in “constant contact” with the Stephans during Mark’s recovery at RIC and were inspired, Ubben said in an interview, by his friend’s “courage and persistence.”

Timothy and Sharon Ubben

Timothy and Sharon Ubben | Provided photo

“Seeing him go through his paces was an extremely inspiring event in and of itself,” Ubben said. He called Stephan’s journey through recovery, which is ongoing, “unimaginable.”

“It was inspiring to see him and to see a spouse’s dedication,” Ubben said.

After four months of intensive inpatient therapy at RIC in 2007, Stephan participated in the Institute’s DayRehab program. That required eight hours of therapy, five days a week for a year, according to RIC. He’s since participated in more than 25 RIC research studies.

The Ubbens’ gift will support the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, RIC’s state-of-the-art research hospital. When the $550 million, 1.2 million-square-foot facility opens in March will be the first “translational” research hospital in which clinicians, scientists, innovators and technologists will work together in the same space, applying (or “translating”) research in real time.

The philanthropic couple are specifically underwriting the Legs + Walking Lab, which will serve patients recovering from a range of conditions including spinal cord injuries, amputations and traumatic brain injuries. At the insistence of the Ubbens, the lab will be named the “Margaret & Mark Stephan Legs + Walking Lab” in honor of the Stephans.

The gesture stunned the Stephans.

“It really touched me. He sat us down and out of the blue told us of the gift. We were surprised by its size and how they donated. It was amazing,” said Stephan, a former Goldman Sachs executive. “It’s refreshing to see someone with the resources make a commitment in that way: to recognize the joy of giving for giving.”

In recent years, the Ubbens donated $25 million to the Posse Foundation, which helps prepare minority students for college, and millions more to their alma mater, DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

Tim Ubben founded Lincoln Capital Management, a Chicago-based investment firm that had more than $50 billion in assets under management when he retired in 1999 as chairman. Sharon Ubben owned a tour company, Hearts Desire, from 1983 to 1990.